NEW YORK — Millions of amateur soccer players have spent countless hours parked on their couches in front of the FIFA video games series, trying to develop academy prospects and avoid Career Mode relegation, all while wondering how they’d fare on a real pitch under such rigorous training and with such closely monitored scrutiny over statistics and ratings.
A new Brooklyn indoor soccer facility targeting youth and recreational players combines tracking technology on the pitch and an innovative user experience in its app to replicate a professional soccer career for the weekend and weeknight warrior joining leagues after his or her day job.
“It’s literally like FIFA, the video game, in real life,” Socceroof general manager Jonathan Lupinelli said.
Socceroof, which is expected to open in late 2017, boasts 10 soccer pitches measuring 80′ x 50′ for five-on-five play, with some room to add more fields and also to combine up to three pitches into an 80′ x 150′ playing surface. This is the tracking-enabled American adaptation of Le Five, an urban soccer complex that now has 25 facilities in Paris and five more throughout Europe.
Sample player profile
Each player will wear a tracking chip in his or her sock or shoe, and the ball will be equipped with one as well. (Socceroof declined to name the technology provider, but Lupinelli said, “We are going to be the first one using the full potential of it.”) The chips will compile counting stats like the number of shots, goals, passes as well as distance covered, fastest shot and so on. After every game, which will be broadcast on closed-circuit TV to the bar and lounge areas, those stats and personalized ratings will appear in a leaderboard on the flatscreen monitors.
“Depending on your performances, your stats evolve,” Lupinelli said, joking about having the match’s worst player be charged with the postgame bar tab.
At the heart of the endeavor is helping amateurs “experience soccer as a professional,” said Julien Subit, the CEO and Founder of Bold + Beyond, whose company is designing the app and providing digital marketing help. Teams that call Socceroof home can be promoted or relegated up and down leagues. Captains can use the app to scout and recruit players, creating transfers between teams. The video-taped games will enable players to download personal highlights.
The idea was “to include the video-game experience but, instead of playing with a pad for your TV, you’re actually going to the pitch and you’re actually [playing] the match,” Subit said. “You’re actually making it yours.”
The app has the potential to steal the scene away from even the impressive skyline view of Lower Manhattan afforded by the roof space. But its dependent on the soccer first and foremost, and Socceroof’s team has considerable bonafides in the sport.
Le Five’s founder, Jean-David Tartour, has teamed up with Jerome Meary — who until recently served as the European Recruiter for Major League Soccer (where he helped sign Romain Alessandrini to LA Galaxy, Didier Drogba to the Montreal Impact and Sebastian Giovinco to Toronto FC) — to bring a rendition of the fast-paced, five-a-side soccer style to the U.S. Early in development, they added Lupinelli, a Bordeaux native who played in youth academies in that city as well as at Real Sociedad in San Sebastián, Spain (where he roomed with Atlético Madrid and French national team star Antoine Griezmann) before coming to the Southern New Hampshire University on a scholarship and helping win a Division II national championship. After graduation with two degrees from SNHU, Lupinelli was working in MLS’ international business office.
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Furthermore, investors include Manchester United player Anthony Martial, former Paris Saint-Germain owner Patrick Sayer, former World Cup-winning French national player Bixente Lizarazu and Red Bull’s head of global soccer, Gerard Houllier, who previously managed Liverpool, Aston Villa and the French national team. PSG’s New York academy, which sponsors area camps and travel teams, has signed on to use the fields for practice.
Socceroof is so named for its occupancy of the entire third floor (including two roofdecks) of Whale Square, where it serves as the flagship tenant of a new Sunset Park development about a mile south of Industry City. If this site launch goes well, Lupinelli said, his team has already been looking into real estate for a second Brooklyn location in the Bushwick neighborhood as well as in Long Island City, Queens.
At the end of the day, though FIFA-maker Electronic Arts stresses realism through its “It’s in the game” slogan, Socceroof wants to replicate that experience in an entertaining way and provide the bar and event space, too.
“We try to be soccer, but there’s also social,” Lupinelli said. “It’s important for us.”